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Three’s a Crowd: Third parties still vying for recognition in 2012 election cycle

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March 26, 2012 by Jack Suntrup

If you’re not a Democrat or Republican, this election cycle is going to be hard to take — no matter who wins. To say third-party voters are “disenchanted”  is a misuse of the word. It gives the impression that the bloc was exiled from some Washington D.C.-Disney-fantasy land, when in reality the plane never left Arkansas.

“Every election season the group of bottom feeders is scummier and dirtier than the last,” said John Gray, the 2010 Green Party senate candidate and former mayor of Greenland.

State law dictates that in order to appear on the ballot as a recognized party, leaders must collect signatures from 3 percent of qualified electors, or 10,000 signatures. Predictably, with historically low approval of the congress, third parties want the chance to make their case. Their request: automatic ballot access. The ACLU filed suit after the Green Party won 20 percent of the vote in the 2008 senate election. Success did not transfer in 2010, however, and the 11th Circuit Court in St. Louis ruled the law was not unreasonable.

Nevertheless, the Libertarians and the Green Party met the signature requirement this year.

“We are an official political party in Arkansas,” said Casey Copeland, a Prairie Grove council member. “Our candidates will appear as Libertarians instead of independents.”

The Constitution Party did not meet the requirement, and will run candidates as independents, said Mark Moore, candidate for state house Dist. 95. The Democrats and Republicans have collaborated to prevent unexpected opposition, he said. Six years ago, in an effort to skirt the Arkansas law, Moore proposed his own bill with the help of a congressional outsider that did not even make the committee agenda, he said.

“The angrier people get at the two party system, the more they shut the doors,” Moore said. “The insiders of each of the two Washington based parties get along with each other better than they do with outsiders in their own parties.”
Tyler Clark, the head of the Washington County Democratic Committee disagreed with that  assessment.

“Their parties lack the leadership to make sure they’re putting the best people forward to run for office,” he said. “[The law is] a fine process.”

Referencing the Occupy movement as well, “If they’re so radical that they’re not willing to join another group or listen to anyone else–kind of go out on their own in full force in another direction–it’s hard for anyone else to go too.”

The Green Party’s Gray does have an independent streak. However, he was able to make the ballot and was invited to a debate.

“The media decides who will be in the debates,” he said. “Until there’s an alternate network of media across the state, no third party has a snowball of a chance.”

Of his debate experience, “It was fine. But no one watched,” he said. After that, he was not invited to another debate because, as Gray said the media put it, he was not a “viable candidate.”

Though Gray and Moore are on different sides of the political spectrum, they have similar ideas about why their voices are not a relevant part of the public discourse.

“Americans have gotten too careless,” Moore said. “They’ve outsourced the job of defending liberties to Washington D.C. to be funded by corporations that have global interests and not local ones.”

Gray said the Green Party would never take money from a corporation, and always operates on a shoestring as a result. The Green Party did not return interview requests.

Outsiders, Gray said, “don’t have a chance unless a third party gets a sugar-daddy.” That is why Gray has tried to convince party leaders to solicit the support of unions.

“If the Green Party will be the party of the working class, if working men organize, they might have strength,” he said. “They need to get candidates that are pro-worker and at least win a few local elections.”

At this point, while Gray is frustrated with the two party system, the failure of the Green Party to appeal to workers has led him astray.

“I don’t know who’s running, and I don’t care,” he said. “It’s a waste of my time.”

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